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JIM JONES COLUMN | Video will hopefully get attacker

First, there was a scene of blissful tranquility: a young girl walking innocently down a tree-lined sidewalk.

Followed immediately by a scene of pure evil.

She was being trailed by someone intent on doing something dreadful, unspeakable.

The video shows an evil creature -- I wouldn’t call him a man -- bolting over a gate at a church parking lot in the 5500 block of 26th Street West and making a beeline for the girl in front of him.

Moments later, the girl, 12, was grabbed from behind, authorities say.

It was about 4:20 p.m. Thursday. The girl may have saved her own life, or avoided being sexually assaulted through her poise and presence of mind. She told her attacker that there were other people in the area and he had better leave. He did.

The stalking, and the assailant’s flight from the area was captured on a surveillance camera.

For now, the man, described as being between 30 and 40 years old, standing about 6 feet tall, and having a thin build, remains at large. He eluded a search by sheriff’s helicopter and police dog, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

As bad and as scary as Thursday’s attack might have been, it gets even worse.

The sheriff’s office reported it is investigating a Nov. 29 case involving a 15-year-old girl and the Bradenton Police Department is investigating the rape of another 15-year-old girl on Jan. 31.

In the November case, the attacker fled after the girl resisted, according to a press release.

Investigators are obviously looking intently at all three cases.

Ironically, this comes to light just days after a Kids Safety Rally was held at Central Church of Christ, 6221 Proctor Road, Sarasota.

The rally has been held annually at the church since 2004 when Carlie Brucia’s body was found there.

Carlie was just 11 years old when she was abducted off a Sarasota street and murdered.

A chilling surveillance video captured Carlie’s abduction.

As one who has expressed reservations about surveillance cameras -- as recently as last week in the case of Longboat Key that has proposed recording every license plate entering the island -- I remain conflicted on the issue.

But there is no conflict at all about the camera that helped eventually convict Carlie’s killer, or the one in Manatee County that may give investigators crucial clues in removing a criminal from our streets.

Investigators are asking anyone with information about these crimes to call the sheriff’s office at (941) 747-3011 or Crime Stoppers at (9866) 634-TIPS.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.